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Curry Says Work On Closing Gap On Racial, Economic Disparities ‘Isn’t Something New’

File photo of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams.
LINDSEY KILBRIDE / WJCT NEWS
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File photo of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Thursday that while he is willing to speak to organizers of recent protests on police brutality and racial inequities, he and his office have already been working on those issues in the community.

“Us listening to and working with individuals is not new,” Curry said.

Curry said since he’s been in office, he believes the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has done well with working on trust and accountability between citizens and police.

“There's questions about body cameras,” Curry said. “There are questions about funding of the police department. There are questions about use of force, all of which I know, having worked with our Sheriff, he's committed to doing the right thing and making sure that people are equally represented.”

Curry’s comments come after Northside Coalition President Ben Frazier, who organized Saturday’s peaceful march Downtown, said Wednesday that Sheriff Mike Williams is “continuing policies, practices, and procedures that are racist and go against the very nature of people of color.”

“It's time for us to address it and call it just like it is,” Frazier said outside the steps of JSO’s Downtown headquarters. “There are major issues affecting the relationship between local law enforcement and the black community.”

The Jacksonville Community Action Committee issued a release with several demands, including the release of body camera footage for police shootings, and an accountability council led by citizens to provide oversight on JSO. 

“We hear their voices and have been listening to, and working with, many voices for a number of years now,” Curry said.

Asked if he’ll participate in any walks himself, Curry said he wants to be out there, but it would put a strain on law enforcement to protect him. 

“There may be a time, [Sheriff Mike Williams] and I, where we go out and walk. We've talked about this - this isn't the time,” Curry said. “I'm interested in action items that we can do through legislation and budgets that will address the needs of the people.” 

With exactly one month before the 4th of July, Curry announced that there will be a fireworks show Downtown, but there will also be other displays throughout the city so people can social distance and a huge crowd coming together can be avoided. 

The city will announce where those other locations will be at a later date. 

“We want to ensure those locations offer great vantage points but will allow for proper social distancing while we celebrate the birth of our nation,” Curry said. 

Curry also outlined Phase Two of the reopening in Jacksonville, which Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday afternoon. 

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

It includes bars and clubs reopening at 50% capacity and unlimited outdoor seating with social distancing measures. Entertainment venues like movie theaters, bowling alleys, concert houses, auditoriums, and arcades can also reopen at 50% capacity. Tattoo parlors, tanning and massage parlors and acupuncture businesses can reopen as long as they are following Florida Department of Health guidelines. 

Meanwhile, restaurants can open up their bar-top seating and retail stores can reopen at normal capacity. Gyms and fitness centers can also reopen to normal capacity.

“So many of our neighbors are struggling and this will help get us all back, everyone back on their feet,” Curry said. 

Enforcement of Phase 2 restrictions will be minimal, Curry said. 

“People are largely behaving responsibly,” Curry said, adding that based on what he’s hearing, businesses that don’t operate in a socially responsible way will find their customers going someplace else.  

Curry said the percentage of positive cases in Duval County has dipped to 2.9%.

The mayor also addressed recent announcements from Duval County Public Schools. Summer meals will be handed out at select schools and bus stops beginning June 8. 

High school football practices will be resuming in Duval County with a three-phased approach. Conditioning will begin June 15. Weightlifting will start on June 29, and official full practices will continue on July 13.